Sie sind auf Seite 1von 11

Galdeen 1

Evan Galdeen

Professor Fike

ENGL 305

4 December 2017

Brotherly Love and Hate in As You Like It:

The Lion and the Snake

Since Shakespeare died 240 years before Freud was born, it

is interesting that the scene in the forest with the lion and

the snake fits in with Freudian psychology very comfortably. The

play especially fits into the Freudian ideas of parental

resentment found in the Standard Edition of the Complete

Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. While there are other

interpretations of the scene that seem to coincide with the

beliefs of the time the play was written, I will argue that in

creating the relationship between Orlando and Oliver, as well as

their confrontation with the lion and the snake, Shakespeare

intended a deep, psychological and sexual reading rather than a

biblical one.

The criticism pertaining to the lion and the snake scene in

As You Like It ranges in years from 1891-2003. Though not all

the criticism I found pertains directly to the symbolism of the

lioness or the snake, all of it pertains in some way to Orlando

and Oliver’s relationship as brothers.


Galdeen 2

The earliest source, “Some of Shakespeare’s Female

Characters” covers the rescue from Rosalind’s perspective,

briefly mentioning that she is glad that Orlando did not leave

Oliver to his fate (Faucit 385). Next is Albert Cirillo’s

article on pastoralism, which includes mentions of the “Salutary

power” of the forest, as well as Oliver’s turn from “villain to

innocent” when Orlando “turned the other cheek” and saved his

life (Cirillo 33). This Christian interpretation continues

through A. Stuart Daley’s “Where are the Woods in As You Like

It?” where Daley mentions the rescue in context of time and

references Psalm xci. 13 as the “essential” source of the

lioness and the snake (Daley 177). The next article, The Place

of a Brother, written by Louis A. Montrose, steps away from the

Christian imagery to focus on the patriarchal order: “Agnes

Latham suggests that the snake and the lioness which menace

Oliver are metaphors for his own animosities: as the snake

‘slides away, Oliver’s envy melts, and his wrath goes with the

lion.’ The text suggests that it is Orlando who undergoes such

an allegorical purgation. When it sees Orlando, the snake slips

under the bush where the lioness couches’ (Montrose 44). In

Moralizing the Spectacle, Waddington continues the theme of a

more psychoanalytical approach to what the lioness and the snake

symbolize (Waddington 159).


Galdeen 3

The focus shifted from biblical to psychoanalytical around

the mid-twentieth century. The sources are spread evenly on

either side of this line, with the outlier being the Some of

Shakespeare’s Female Characters essay, which is a proto-feminist

view on the play from the nineteenth century. Finally, in 2016,

Laura Vogel wrote As You Like It: A Dream Play, which interprets

the play using the Interpretation of Dreams from Freud’s

Complete Works: “Indeed, the comedy As You Like It incorporates

the strategy of dreams, in which, in keeping with Freud’s

theory, dream work disguises and obfuscates a dream wish or

latent dream thought” (Vogel 116). She focuses on the play,

devoting a decent amount of analysis to the key scene with the

lion and the snake.

In the section on dream interpretation in his Complete

Works, Freud says:

“If, then a child’s death-wishes are explained by the

childish egoism which makes him regard them as rivals, how

are we to explain his death wishes against his parents, who

surround him with love and fulfil his needs whose

preservation that same egoism should lead him to desire?

... boys regarded their fathers… as rivals in love, whose

elimination could not fail to be to their advantage” (739).

He also discusses the symbolism of the snake as one of the “most

important symbols of the male organ” (825).


Galdeen 4

The brothers encounter with the snake and the lioness takes

place in Act 4, Scene 3 of As You Like It. The scene is framed

as a retelling of the events by Oliver to Celia and Rosalind. He

tells them how Orlando came across a sleeping man [himself] in

the woods being approached by a snake who, upon seeing Orlando,

slipped away. Then, a lioness emerged to threaten the brothers.

After hesitating twice, Orlando fought off the lioness and

rescued his brother from certain death.

Though we do not get much in the way of the specific

history between Oliver and Orlando as brothers, we know from the

very first scene that they have issues, stemming from both the

withholding of Orlando’s inheritance from their late father and

Oliver’s position as Orlando’s surrogate father, as well as

other unmentioned points of contention. Shakespeare has given

more evidence for this after he recounts the story. Celia asks

Oliver, “Was’t you that did so oft contrive to kill him?”

(4.3.34), a query that Oliver then confirms. In the section on

dream interpretation in his Complete Works, Freud says: “If,

then a child’s death-wishes are explained by the childish egoism

which makes him regard them as rivals, how are we to explain his

death wishes against his parents, who surround him with love and

fulfil his needs whose preservation that same egoism should lead

him to desire?” (739). Since we do not see Oliver or Orlando’s

interaction with their recently diseased father or unmentioned


Galdeen 5

mother, the latter part of this quotation is less relevant than

the first. The animosity between brothers is very relevant and

has led to attempted murder in the past. Despite their history

and their rivalry, Orlando makes the right choice and saves his

brother, turning against what Freud would consider the innate

desire to let his brother die and saving him instead. Laura

Vogel speaks of the rivalry in broad terms, saying that:

“Our reading of Oliver’s speech [in act one] posits that he

feels threatened by and envious of Orlando. He perceives

his strong and courageous younger brother to be a male

possessed of phallic power superior to his own. Lionel

Ovesey, writing in the 1960s, proposed that men can have

unconscious fantasies of phallic domination or phallic

dependency not accompanied by erotic feeling nor driven by

desire; these fantasies arise from concerns about power

and/or dependency (Ovesey, 1969). Oliver unconsciously

fears phallic domination by the masculine Orlando.” (Vogel

121)

The phallic ideas here relate directly to the encounter with the

snake:

“When last the young Orlando parted from you,

He left a promise to return again

Within an hour; and pacing through the forest,

Chewing the food of sweet and bitter fancy,


Galdeen 6

Lo what befell! He threw his eye aside,

And mark what object did present itself

Under an old oak, whose boughs were moss’d with age

And high top bald with dry antiquity,

A wretched ragged man, o’ergrown with hair,

Lay sleeping on his back. About his neck

A green and gilded snake had wreath’d itself,

Who with her head, nimble in threats, approach’d

The opening of his mouth. But suddenly

Seeing Orlando, it unlik’d itself

And with indented glides did slip away” (4.3.98-112).

The obvious Freudian interpretation of the snake would be

of a phallic nature. Laura Vogel speaks of the encounter with

the snake, relating it to an earlier scene with Rosalind:

” The chain with which Rosalind possessively encircled Orlando’s

neck when they first met is mirrored here by the snake wreathed

around Oliver’s neck. For Rosalind, this chain signifies her

erotic attachment and submission to Orlando. The chain and the

snake each represents Orlando’s phallic masculinity as well, yet

another condensation” (Vogel 122).

This interpretation fits with Freud’s classification of the

snake as one of the “most important symbols of the male organ”

(825). In the scene, it is also important to note that the snake

attempted to “penetrate” Orlando orally (4.3.110), which is a


Galdeen 7

very sexual image in and of itself. Though by the time the play

begins, Oliver and Orlando’s father is dead, the Freudian idea

of the child seeing the parent as a rival can be applied to

these brothers, as Oliver has taken a parental role as the

eldest son. Freud says: “… boys regarded their fathers… as

rivals in love, whose elimination could not fail to be to their

advantage” (739). In this case, the advantage for Orlando would

not only be receiving his rightful inheritance, but also being

free to pursue Rosalind without fear of his brother getting in

the way. The battle with the lion and the snake changes their

dynamic, however, as Adrian Montrose says:

“Agnes Latham suggests that the snake and the lioness

which menace Oliver are metaphors for his own animosities:

as the snake ‘slides away, Oliver’s envy melts, and his

wrath goes with the lion.’ The text suggests that it is

Orlando who undergoes such an allegorical purgation. When

it sees Orlando, the snake slips under the bush where the

lioness couches” (44).

The lioness enters as the snake exits, changing the threat of

nature and the gender it represents:

“A lioness, with udders all drawn dry,

Lay couching head on the ground, with catlike watch

When that the sleeping man should stir; for ‘tis

The royal deposition of that beast


Galdeen 8

To prey on nothing that doth seem as dead.

This seen, Orlando did approach the man,

And found that it was his brother, his elder brother…

Twice he did turn his back, and purpos’d so.

But kindness, nobler ever than revenge,

And nature, stronger than his just occasion,

Made him give battle to the lioness,

Who quickly fell before him ; in which hurtling

From miserable slumber I awak’d” (4.3.114-20,127-32)

One of the most important aspects of the lion in this scene

is that it is a female lioness. This is in high contrast to the

snake that just slithered away, which is a masculine symbol. The

correlation between the lioness being female and the absence of

the boys’ mother, as well as the concept of the wife figure

taking the place of the mother figure as caregiver are important

concepts here. In their article on Shakespeare’s female

characters, Helena Faucit and Lady Martin note that Rosalind’s

“heart leaps within her as she learns that, conquering the first

impulse to leave his brother to his fate, Orlando has given

‘battle to the lioness’ …” (385). In doing the right thing,

Orlando has endeared himself to his future wife and mother-

replacement figure. The femaleness of the lion could also be

interpreted as a rival figure for Rosalind’s affection, which

Orlando has overcome in addition to his impulses to let his


Galdeen 9

brother die. Freud has little to say on the lioness [and nothing

to say on the play itself] in the Standard Edition, but Laura

Vogel applies a Freudian lens to the scene with the following:

“In our reading, Oliver’s instant conversion from bad to

good, and his whirlwind courtship immediately following his

rescue now become more coherent. Once Orlando has

dispatched the phallic power of the snake, Oliver is freed

from his sense of masculine inferiority and hatred of his

brother” (Vogel 121).

Orlando’s defeat of the devouring maternal lioness diminishes

the anxiety that both brothers may be experiencing as they

anticipate sexual love with women. In a dramatic expression of

condensation, Oliver’s unconscious conflicts burst into his

conscious mind; this transformation liberates his capacity to

experience aggression and sexuality. Feeling protected rather

than dominated by Orlando, Oliver can identify with his brother

in a way which strengthens his masculine self. He instantly

falls in love with Aliena/Celia” (Vogel 122).

With the lowering of the barriers between the brothers, not

only does Orlando get his inheritance, but Oliver finds love.

Also notable is the mention of the relationship between anxiety

about first time sex and the defeat of the lion. This

nervousness is spoken about in the Standard Edition,

particularly regarding impotence:


Galdeen 10

“Modifications in the proportions of the fusion between the

instincts have the most tangible results. A surplus of

sexual aggressiveness will turn a lover into a sex-

murderer, while a sharp diminution the aggressive factor

will make him bashful or impotent” (4981).

While Oliver and Orlando no longer have to worry about sex

murder, there is perhaps a concern of impotence [though this is

not indicated by Shakespeare himself].

Though written in a time before Freud, Shakespeare’s

writing in As You Like It is very much in line with his later

writings on human nature, which has always existed. Both the

biblical and Freudian interpretation have merit, and though

gleaning authorial intent is difficult when reading centuries-

old literature, the Freudian reading fits the text, and

therefore the scholarly reader may gather and interpret As You

Like It as intentionally psychoanalytical in nature, with

particular regards to Orlando, Oliver, the lion and the snake.


Galdeen 11

Works Cited

Cirillo, Albert R. “As You Like It: Pastoralism Gone Awry.” ELH, vol.

38, no. 1, 1971, pp. 19–39. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2872361.

Daley, A. Stuart. “Where Are the Woods in As You Like It?”

Shakespeare Quarterly, vol. 34, no. 2, 1983, pp. 172–80. JSTOR,

www.jstor.org/stable/2869832.

Faucit, Helena, and Lady Martin. “Some of Shakespeare's Female

Characters (1891).” As You like It from 1600 to the Present:

Critical Essays, edited by Edward Tomarken, Rutledge, 1997, pp.

343–94.

Freud, Sigmund. Freud- Complete Works. Edited by Ivan Smith, Patrick

Valas, www.valas.fr/IMG/pdf/Freud_Complete_Works.pdf.

Montrose, Louis Adrian. “‘The Place of a Brother’ in ‘As You Like

It’: Social Process and Comic Form.” Shakespeare Quarterly, vol.

32, no. 1, 1981, pp. 28–54. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2870285.

Shakespeare, William. As You Like It. Edited by Agnes Latham,

The Arden Shakespeare, 2005.

Waddington, Raymond B. “Moralizing the Spectacle: Dramatic Emblems in

As You Like It.” Shakespeare Quarterly, vol. 33, no. 2, 1982,

pp. 155–63. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2869788.

Vogel, Laura B. “As You Like It: a Dream Play.” PsyArt Journal, 2016,

journal.psyart.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/PsyArt-2016-

Article-8-L-Vogel.pdf.